CH 2: Playing Cards

Days turned into weeks, and the weight of my unspoken realization became a constant presence. Jonah’s focus remained on his political career, and our interactions were nothing more than perfunctory exchanges. The name "Ava" lingered in my mind like a shadow, whispering doubts and fears I couldn't ignore.

My grandfather used to play cards. I'd watch him smoke a cigar with his buddies while playing cards around a table on the back porch. He always told me, 'never rush to play your best card.' He said a winner knows how to make his opponents think he was dealt a bad hand but when the time was right he'd put a card on the table to remind them who is really controlling the game.

I never cared about playing cards. However, it seemed as if I were in a game I didn't sign up to participate in.

Redirecting My Energy

Determined to reclaim a sense of purpose and identity, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. The bakery dream that had simmered in my heart for so long was no longer a mere fantasy—it was a necessity. I owed it to myself and my children to show them that dreams should never be abandoned, no matter the obstacles.

I started small. While the kids were at school and Jonah was engrossed in his campaign, I poured my energy into perfecting my recipes and creating a business plan. I researched local markets, scouted potential locations, and connected with other women who had successfully started their own businesses. Their stories of perseverance and triumph fueled my determination.

One evening, as the rain pelted against the windows and thunder rumbled in the distance, I finally found the courage to speak to Jonah about my plans. He was in his study, engrossed in paperwork, his brow furrowed in concentration.

“Jonah, we need to talk,” I said, my voice steady but firm.

He looked up, a hint of irritation in his eyes. “Can’t it wait, Chloe? I’m in the middle of something important.”

“No, it can’t wait,” I replied, taking a deep breath. “I’ve been thinking a lot about my dreams, about the bakery I’ve always wanted to open. I’ve done the research, and I believe now is the right time to pursue it.”

Jonah’s expression softened slightly, but skepticism remained. “Chloe, you know how demanding my schedule is right now. We can’t afford any distractions.”

“This isn’t a distraction,” I insisted, my resolve unwavering. “This is about my happiness, my fulfillment. I’ve supported you for years, and now I need you to support me.”

He sighed, leaning back in his chair. “Alright, Chloe. We’ll discuss it further when things settle down. But I can’t promise anything.”

It wasn’t the outright support I had hoped for, but it was a start. With renewed determination, I continued to work on my plans, balancing my responsibilities as a mother and wife with my newfound entrepreneurial aspirations.

We, girls, seem to always wait on men to decide when the time is right for what's important to us to be prioritized in the home. If you don't catch it in the beggining, it will become normalized. By the time you point out the problem they'll make you think YOU'RE the one who is crazy for verbalizing feelings that are never valued enough to even discuss.

The Grand Opening

Months of hard work and preparation finally led to the day I had dreamed of for so long—the grand opening of "Chloe's Delights." The small, charming bakery nestled in the heart of our community was a testament to my resilience and determination. Friends, family, and neighbors gathered to celebrate, their smiles and words of encouragement filling me with a sense of accomplishment I hadn't felt in years.

As I stood behind the counter, greeting customers and serving freshly baked pastries, I felt a surge of pride. This was more than a business; it was a symbol of my journey, my sacrifices, and my refusal to let my dreams be overshadowed by someone else’s ambitions.

Jonah arrived later, his expression a mixture of surprise and admiration. He walked up to me, a genuine smile spreading across his face. “Chloe, this place is incredible. I had no idea you were capable of all this.”

“Thank you, Jonah,” I replied, my heart swelling with emotion. “I’ve always been capable. I just needed the opportunity to show it.”

In that moment, I saw a flicker of the man I had fallen in love with years ago—the man who had once believed in me as much as I believed in him. Our journey was far from over, but for the first time in a long while, I felt hopeful.

The Unexpected Visitor

A week after the grand opening, a particularly busy morning was brightened by the entrance of a stunning woman. She had flowing auburn hair, striking green eyes, and an air of confidence that turned heads as she walked in. There was something peculiar about her, something that made my heart race. I couldn't shake the feeling and in a weird way it pulled on me relentlessly.

"Hi, welcome to Chloe's Delights. What can I get for you?" I asked, trying to keep my voice steady.

She smiled warmly. "A coffee and one of those lemon scones, please."

As I prepared her order, I couldn't help but steal glances at her. Curiosity gnawed at me, and I decided to take a chance.

"I'm Chloe, by the way. I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before."

"Ava," she replied, extending her hand. "I just moved here earlier this year. Heard great things about this place and thought I'd check it out."

The name confirmed my suspicions, and I struggled to keep my composure. "Well, welcome, Ava. I hope you like it here."

Ava’s gaze lingered on me, a knowing look in her eyes. "Thank you, Chloe. You have a lovely bakery. It must be a lot of work, especially with a family to take care of."

"Yes, it is," I said, smiling through the tension. "But it’s worth it."

Ava took her order and sat at a table by the window. I watched her, my mind racing with questions. Could she be the Ava Jonah mentioned in his sleep? The possibility was unsettling.

Connecting the Dots

I couldn’t shake the conversation with Ava from my mind. About thirty minutes later Jonah walked in. He looked around, a nervous energy about him that I hadn’t seen before.

"Hey, Chloe," he greeted, his voice strained. "How's everything going?"

"Good," I replied, watching him closely. "We had a busy day."

Just then, Ava approached the counter to say goodbye. "Thanks for the coffee, Chloe. It was lovely meeting you."

"You're welcome, Ava. See you around," I said, my voice steady but my mind whirling.

Jonah's eyes widened slightly at the mention of her name, but he quickly masked his reaction. "Nice to meet you, Ava." She pretended not to know him, "are you Chloe's husband?" He told her his name while looking at me, then looking back at her.

Ava smiled at him, a hint of mischief in her eyes. "I'll see you around, Jonah."

As she walked out of the bakery, I noticed Jonah watching her intently, his eyes following her every step. He didn’t realize I was watching him, putting all the pieces together. The late nights, the distant behavior, the name spoken in his sleep—it all made sense now.

I felt a surge of anger and betrayal but also a cold clarity. Jonah had lied to me, and the woman he tried to hide was now a real person standing before me in my own bakery. This wasn’t just a suspicion anymore; it was reality.

There's something unique about a woman's intuition. We can sense misbehavior from a man even if we don't have all the facts. But it's in that moment, a real woman has to decide if she will give in to her emotions and create a scene or if she'll just keep stacking her cards until it's time to call a spade a spade.

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